Day labourers as entrepreneurs?

Valenzuela Jr, Abel.

Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 27, no. 2 (2001): 335-352.


The literature on entrepreneurship is primarily elitist, placing a large emphasis on size and location, innovation, proprietorship, and capital start-up. Missing from this body of literature are the temporary, low-wage self-employed. Using day labourers as a case study, I challenge the narrow and conceptually problematic definitions of entrepreneurship while also countering popular perceptions of day labour. Drawing upon 481 randomly surveyed day labourers, ethnographic field notes and in-depth interviews, I empirically show that a significant segment of the day labour population comprises an entrepreneurial class. I argue that day labourers fit into the class of entrepreneurs known as survivalist entrepreneurs. Day labourers show characteristics of both value and disadvantaged survivalist entrepreneurs in their day-to-day search for employment. I conclude that a larger number of day labourers fall under the ‘disadvantaged’ rubric of survivalist entrepreneurs, with the remainder undertaking this form of employment for reasons of choice and other attributes congruent with their labour market and personal values related to autonomy and exibility.

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